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Introducing the Queen of Pop

Page 10 of 11

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift
Joseph Anthony Baker

ALBUM REVIEWS

While we're looking at more subjective criteria like awards, let's look at the most subjective ranking of all: critical acclaim. We blended together the contenders' average album rating at Rolling Stone with their career average ratings at Metacritic, with slightly more emphasis on the former (hey, it's our survey). Here are the results; ratings are out of 200 points total.

Finally, a strong showing for Robyn! Critics love the Swedish pop doyenne, who almost tops the survey thanks to strong ratings for her 2010 Body Talk album series.

Interestingly, 32-year-old Robyn scored the earliest Top 10 singles of any woman in our survey, making the upper reaches of the Hot 100 back in 1997-98 with "Do You Know (What It Takes)" and "Show Me Love." Those were, sadly, her last U.S. Top 10s. Robyn's modest American album sales and dearth of U.S. radio play over the last decade hurt her on most of our surveys of 2009-11. We included her anyway, in general tribute to her awesomeness and our desire to make her an unofficial, lowercase queen of pop.

Robyn's 'Call Your Girlfriend' Video

There are other surprises on the critics' survey – not least the fact that the second-youngest starlet, Taylor Swift, is the most acclaimed. (On the other hand, the very youngest, Miley Cyrus, falls near the bottom.)

Shakira takes third place again, thanks in part to the four-star rating earned by her underappreciated 2009 She Wolf disc. Her outranking of Lady Gaga among critics is something of a fluke, likely brought on by the impassioned pro-and-con debate Gaga inspires.

Edging into the top five is 2011's chart goddess, Adele. Given the acclaim for her 21 album, it's a bit surprising she didn't do even better. But then, most critics reviewed the album before she became a capital-P Phenomenon.

NEXT: The Master Ranking

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

More Song Stories entries »
 
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